Starting in beautifully-preserved Prague, for 16 days you'll experience the rich diversity of Eastern Europe, from the energetic cities of Kraków and Budapest to tradition-rich "back door" towns and villages across the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, and Slovenia — including the waterfall wonderland of Plitvice and the picture-perfect Alpine beauty of Lake Bled.
You'll get all this!
- A small, friendly group of 24-28 people — half the size of most tour groups
- The services of a professional Rick Steves guide and local experts who will make the fascinating history, art and culture of Eastern Europe come alive for you
- All tours and admissions — at no extra cost — covering at least 23 group sightseeing events • Historic Prague walking tour, including Josefov neighborhood • Prague Castle tour • St. Vitus Cathedral • St. George's Basilica • Czech Moravian folk performance • Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp tour • Kraków walking tour • Kraków's Wawel Cathedral • Kraków's St. Mary's Church • Kazimierz and Podgórze neighborhood walking tour • Oskar Schindler's Factory Museum • Eger orientation walk • Hungarian village school visit (when available) • Hungarian wine tasting • Pest walking tour • Walking tour of Buda's Castle district • Matthias Church • Danube cruise • Plitvice National Park hike • Rab orientation walk • Island happy hour • Škocjan Caves tour • Lake Bled boat ride (weather permitting)...and more
- All group transportation from Prague to Lake Bled, Slovenia
- 15 nights accommodations in memorable, centrally-located hotels
- All breakfasts and half your dinners
- All tips for guides and driver
- Free stuff including Rick Steves' Eastern Europe guidebook, map, moneybelt and earplugs
- Guaranteed tour price, locked in the moment you make your deposit
- Optional single supplements — this tour has a limited number of private rooms for solo travelers for an additional fee
- Tour alum discount of $50 for each tour you've taken prior to 2014
- 50% discount on a consulting appointment with our in-house experts to assist with your pre- or post-tour travel plans
- Flexibility should you need to transfer, or cancel/interrupt your tour
- Fine print: You are responsible for the cost of your drinks and free-time sightseeing. See our Tour Conditions Agreement for important details regarding everything listed above
Daily Activity Key
- Light = 2-4 miles of mostly level walking throughout the day.
- Moderate = 2-6 miles walking throughout the day with some hills and stairs.
- Strenuous = 2-8 miles walking throughout the day with lots of hills, stairs and uneven terrain.
Day 1: Welcome to Prague
We'll meet at 3 p.m. to get acquainted and preview the adventures ahead. This afternoon we'll jump right in and enjoy a walking tour through our neighborhood and Prague's colorful Old Town Square. We'll continue on to the Josevof neighborhood and ponder the proudly-preserved Old Jewish Cemetery and historic synagogues where we'll learn about the rich heritage and enduring struggles of Prague's Jews. We'll end our evening over a hearty dinner together. Sleep in Prague (2 nights). No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 2: Royal, Prestigious Prague
This morning we'll hop aboard a local tram to take us across the Vltava River and up the hill to the most massive castle complex in continental Europe: Prague Castle. We'll tour the impressive Old Royal Palace, St. George's Basilica and St. Vitus Cathedral. You'll then have free time for lunch and the remainder of the day for more sightseeing on your own. This evening is a great time to catch a classical concert or experience the quirky and uniquely Czech Black Light Theater. No bus. Walking: strenuous.
Day 3: The Czech Countryside
We'll leave the city and drive east into mountainous Moravia, stopping in the beautifully Baroque hill town of Stramberk, where we'll enjoy some free time for lunch and exploration. Then we'll continue on to our rustic lodge deep amidst the beautiful Beskydy Mountains. Your guide will take you on a hilltop walk, admiring wooded trails, pristine views and spinning tall tales of local legends. Tonight we'll enjoy a Moravian feast along with traditional entertainment provided by a local folk troupe. Sleep in Pustevny (1 night). Bus: 6 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 4: Lessons of the Past
Today we'll cross over the open border into Poland — essentially unguarded since 2007 — and enjoy lunch together in a small Polish town. This afternoon a local guide will lead us through the concentration camp sites of Auschwitz and Birkenau, Europe's most moving memorials to the Holocaust. Tonight's destination is the surprising city of Kraków, Poland's cultural crossroads and melting pot. We'll take an orientation walk to the historic market square and enjoy dinner together. Sleep in Kraków (3 nights) Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 5: Historic Kraków — Then and Now
This morning we'll meet a local guide and wind our way through the story of Kraków. We'll marvel at Wawel Castle, the spiritual home of the Polish nation, and Wawel Cathedral, the resting place of Polish royalty and saints. We'll visit historic St. Mary's Church — the only tower in the world where a bugler has played every hour for the past 600 years (and boy is he tired). We'll learn about the life and impact of local legend John Paul II, as we trace his footsteps on our walking tour through the heart of Kraków. Your afternoon is free to visit one or two of Kraków's interesting museums. No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 6: All Day in Kraków
After a free morning to enjoy the many delights of Kraków, we'll meet up for a walk through the Kazimierz district — the heart of Kraków's once-thriving Jewish community. In the Podgórze neighborhood, we'll tour the museum that best captures Poland's shattering WWII experience: Oskar Schindler's Factory. Your evening is free to explore Kraków's bustling restaurant scene. No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 7: Scenic Drive into Hungary
Today's drive takes us across Slovakia — the geographic center of Europe — and into the scenic Tatras — granite mountains that seem to burst up from the center of the earth. We'll enjoy a picnic lunch in the small town of Levoča, and then continue on to the rolling hills of Hungary's famous "Bull's Blood" wine-growing region. Tonight in the town of Eger, where the townspeople (with some help) turned back an Ottoman invasion of central Europe in 1552, we'll share a family-style Hungarian feast. Sleep in Eger (1 night). Bus: 8 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 8: From Villages to Capital
This morning you'll have time to soak in Eger's Baroque beauty or soak yourself in Eger's baths. Later we'll visit a school in the nearby village of Recsk, where we'll sit down and chat with a local teacher and enjoy lunch together in the cafeteria (when available). Then we'll learn about the region's deservedly-famous wines with a tour and tasting at the local Kohari Winery. Our destination this evening is Budapest, the mighty Magyar capital on the Danube, where after an orientation walk, we'll enjoy dinner together. Sleep in Budapest (3 nights). Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 9: Bustling Budapest
The rich history of Pest has created a city that's a puzzle of Baroque, classical, and modern architecture. On our walking tour this morning we'll crane our necks beside Europe's largest parliament building, and learn how Hungarians coped with half a century of fascist and communist tyranny. This afternoon you'll be free to wander through the Great Market Hall — an architectural gem and the city's largest indoor market — and treat your senses to a few paprika-infused delicacies. We'll regroup later on, ending our day together with a relaxing cruise on the Danube. Boat: 1 hr. No bus. Walking: strenuous.
Day 10: Historic Budapest
Today we'll focus on the Buda side of the Danube, starting with a funicular ride up the steep Castle Hill for bird's-eye views of sprawling Pest, and a walking tour that takes us past the imposing Royal Palace and into Budapest's greatest church, the sumptuously-gilded Matthias Church. When we've finished here, your guide will be happy to arrange, for those who are interested, a chance to soak in the ornate and traditional public Thermal Baths. No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 11: Natural Wonders of Croatia
After breakfast we'll drive out of Hungary and into Croatia. Just across the border, we'll be welcomed with a fresh, family-prepared lunch in a pleasant farm setting. Then we'll drive on to our destination, the deep greens and blues of Croatia's water wonderland and one of Europe's premier nature preserves: Plitvice Lakes National Park. Sleep in the National Park, surrounded by the quiet of nature (1 night). Bus: 7 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 12: From the Forests to the Sea
This morning we'll hike along rustic boardwalk trails connecting the idyllic forests, travertine stone cliffs, clear blue lakes and gushing waterfalls of Plitvice National Park. We'll learn how the park is creatively managing to protect its delicate environment, including the use of electric trams and boats. We'll take a lunch break to replenish ourselves, then give our legs a rest as we drive along the Dinaric Alps to the Adriatic Sea. We'll board a ferry for our enchanting retreat on the island of Rab, where we'll sleep (2 nights). Boat: 1 hr. Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: strenuous.
Day 13: Free Day on the Island of Rab
Take a "vacation from your vacation." The entire day is yours to enjoy the sun, beach, gelato, seafood, and lazy ambience of Rab. Wander through the shaded streets, watch local fishermen bring in the day's catch, or rent a mountain bike to explore the island's hilly trails. We'll compare notes at an informal happy hour early this evening. No bus. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).
Day 14: Škocjan Caves and Lake Bled
We'll hop aboard the local ferry this morning, settle back on our bus, and head for one of our planet's most remarkable natural underground networks, the Škocjan Caves. We'll share a picnic lunch together, and then take a guided hike through a surreal world of spacious underground halls, deep gorges, mighty rivers and shimmering natural springs. Emerging to the surface, we'll continue to our destination, the azure jewel of Lake Bled. Sleep in Bled (2 nights). Boat: ½ hr. Bus: 5 hrs. Walking: strenuous.
Day 15: Lake Bled
This morning we'll wake up in the midst of Slovenia's Julian Alps, beside a pristine lake ringed by forests and hiking paths. We'll take a traditional pletna boat ride together to Lake Bled's chapel-topped island, where local tradition requires each would-be husband to carry his bride up the 99 steps from the boat dock to the altar (4 in 5 are successful). Your afternoon is free to hike to the castle and its panoramic viewpoint, take a scenic walk around the lake (stopping for a crem cake), or rent a bike to explore even more. Tonight we'll rendezvous for a special dinner together, sharing travel memories and toasting new friends. Na zdravje! No bus. Boat: 1 hr. Walking: moderate.
Day 16: Tour Over After Breakfast
Ljubljana's airport is just 30 minutes away, and there are nearby train connections to Munich, Vienna and other European cities. Whatever your plans, your guide will help you get on the right track. Na svidenje!
Itinerary specifics subject to change.
Rick Steves tours are physically active!
This is an integral, essential part of the Rick Steves tour experience. On our Best of Eastern Europe in 16 Days tour — among other things — you'll need to happily...
- Carry/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (several blocks possible) and up stairways to reach your hotel; then up several flights of stairs to reach your room.
- Be on your feet, walking and standing for up to four hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions.
- Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
- After orientation and transportation lessons, be able to navigate towns and cities on your own.
We've put together some specific information on what you should know about this tour before you go. You'll also find more general information about "Getting Ready for Your Tour" on our Tour FAQ.
Sightseeing On Your Own
If you arrive in Prague before your tour begins, use Rick Steves' Eastern Europe guidebook to get oriented. Ride the public transportation, try out a few words of Czech (although many locals speak English well), and get over your jet lag with fresh air and exercise.
Here are suggestions for sightseeing in Prague that we will not be doing as a group (see your guidebook for details): Mucha Museum, Museum of Medieval Art, Havelská Market, National Museum, Toy and Barbie Museum, boating on the Vltava River.
Most tour members arrive a day or two before the tour begins — and those who don't, wish they had. This allows you ample time to get over jet lag and make the most of the first few days of the tour.
There is more than one way to get to and from your tour. We recommend talking to your travel agent about "open jaw" airline tickets (flying into and out of different cities). Prague has become a transportation hub, making additional travel before your tour quite easy. The most direct route is to purchase a flight into Prague and out of Ljubljana (the closest airport to Lake Bled). You may want to consider flying in or out of Munich, Vienna, Venice, Budapest or Zagreb and then taking a train to or from your tour. The most convenient train connections from Bled leave from the Lesce-Bled station in the town of Lesce about 4 km from Bled. Ljubljana, Salzburg, Munich, Vienna, Venice or Zagreb are all reachable by train with multiple daily departures.
Flying within Europe can be reasonable as well. Ask your travel agent or check Rick's list of European budget airlines. For links to helpful rail and air websites, go to www.ricksteves.com/plan/links and look under "Transportation."
Read Rick's Guide to Eurail Passes and decide if your travel plans merit a rail pass (or contact our Rail Department for advice at email@example.com or 425/771-8303 ext. 214).
Prior to your tour departure, you will receive detailed directions on how to get from the airport to your first tour hotel, as well as contact information for your first and last hotels in case you wish to book pre- or post-tour hotel accommodations.
If you need more information about additional European travel or for specific questions about your tour, contact the Tour Department at 425/608-4217 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
See a chart with monthly rain and temperature information for this tour.
While it is important to pack light, there are a few items we'd like you to consider including when packing for this tour. There are some great opportunities for hikes on this tour (weather permitting). While hiking boots are not necessary, we recommend you bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes with soles offering good traction. Also, if you are planning on taking a dip in the Adriatic Sea, you may wish to pack a swimsuit and perhaps a lightweight microfiber towel.
For ideas on what to pack, check Rick's Packing List and our Women's Packing List.
Tour Guide Raves
"George was more than outstanding. His passion for history was infectious. His personality and leadership made my trip so interesting. He should be given a commendation for his work ethics and natural ability to make his group feel like one happy family."
— Carol in Langley, BC
"Katerina was simply outstanding. She gave 110% of herself to ensure that the tour members had an in-depth educational experience. She is a true professional who combined history, present day events, life experiences, and a sense of humor to enrich the tour."
— Donald in Puyallup, WA
Favorite tour memories from recent alums:
"There were so many 'wow' moments: starting in Prague, where the architecture, food, beer and overall atmosphere was very breathtaking. The city is overwhelmingly beautiful! Hiking in Plitvice National Park was an 'Ahh' moment! The beauty that surrounds you with multiple waterfalls and clear blue water is just amazing! This really is a must do! Meeting the school kids and all of the locals throughout the trip really made you appreciate the history and culture of each town/city. The local people really are what make the tour a success. Having your own local guide in each city really helps you capture the true essence of each city."
— Brant in Buffalo, NY
"There were many individual 'wow' moments, such as the soccer championship celebration in Kraków, the twilight cruise down the Danube in Budapest, the wine tasting in Hungary, hiking through Plitvice Park, but the biggest and most magical 'wow' was Lake Bled. It was 'wow' when we first arrived and was more and more magical the longer we stayed. We spent extra time there and plan to go back!"
— Beverly in Mercer Island, WA
"The Plitvice National Park was an amazing surprise. I had never heard of it. It was beautifully maintained and a lot of fun!"
— Sue in Concord, CA
To see more comments on Rick Steves' tours, read through our tour member reviews.
Videos & More
This region is rich in history, art and culture. To help you get the most from your trip, we've put together this collection of travel resources from Rick's TV shows, radio interviews and articles, as well as recommended books, films and music.
Rick Steves' TV Clips & Shows
(For more Rick Steves' TV clips on this region, visit Rick on YouTube.)
- Tito and Me (1992)
- Schindler's List (1993)
- Kolya (1996)
- No Man's Land (2002)
- The Pianist (2002)
- Kontroll (2003)
- Karol: A Man Who Became Pope (2005)
Rick Steves' Radio Interviews
(For more radio interviews on this region, see Rick's Audio Europe™ files for iPod, PC & MP3.)
Rick Steves Audio Europe™
- Classical: Béla Bartók, Fryderyk Chopin, Antonin Dvořák, Franz Liszt, Witold Lutoslawski, Gustav Mahler, Krzysztof Penderecki
- Pop/folk: Marta Sebestyen
- Contemporary: Goran Karan Avseniki
Rick Steves' Articles
(For more articles on this region, see Rick's Best Destinations.)
- Rick Steves' Eastern Europe
- Central Europe: Enemies, Neighbors, Friends — Lonnie Johnson
- Café Europa: Life After Communism; How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed; The Balkan Express — Slavenka Drakulic
- History of the Present and The Magic Lantern — Timothy Garton Ash
- Bury Me Standing — Isabel Fonseca
- The Haunted Land — Tina Rosenberg
- I Served the King of England — Bohumil Hrabal
- The Unbearable Lightness of Being — Milan Kundera
- The Good Soldier Švejk — Jaroslav Hašek
- Poland — James Michener
- The Radetzky March — Joseph Roth